Saturday, February 25, 2012

Qur’an Burning: What’s Next for American Soldiers in Afghanistan?

American soldiers have done it again! It was not too long ago that they were found urinating on the dead bodies of Afghans. This time they have burned the Qur’an, the Muslim Scripture. At least two dozen Afghans have died protesting the sacrilegious act. When will these invading forces learn not to commit bastardly acts that are inexcusable and considered profane by other cultures? Will they ever?

It is simply absurd to think that those American military personnel serving in Afghanistan did not know any better. A decade has passed since the Americans had invaded this highly conservative and religious country. It is inconceivable that they did not have sensitivity training to acquaint them with the do’s and the don’ts in Afghanistan. They ought to have known that Muslims consider destruction of the holy book blasphemous.

Yet American soldiers last week started to incinerate a truckload of Islamic religious items, including copies of the Qur’an, taken from detainees at Bagram Air Base. As expected, this incident has triggered the week-long protests not only in Afghanistan but also in the next-door Pakistan. Armed with rocks, bricks and wooden sticks, protesters in Afghanistan took to the streets in demonstrations in a half-dozen provinces. Afghan security forces have fired on the demonstrating crowd to prevent assaults on the NATO bases by angry mobs, and on Thursday two American soldiers were shot to death by a member of the Afghan army at a base in eastern Afghanistan. On Saturday (Feb. 25), two other American military advisers were killed inside the Afghan Interior Ministry in Kabul by a gunman, apparently linked to the Taliban.

Mindful of the angry mood of the Afghans, American diplomats and military officials, including Gen. John Allen -- the top American commander in Afghanistan who heads the NATO forces, met with President Hamid Karzai and spoke to senior Afghan government and religious figures in an attempt to cool down their anger. They apologized and offered to cooperate fully with the Afghan government in its investigation into what led to the burning of the copies of the Qur’an.

However, the fury is not likely to abate soon. Some members of the Parliament have called on Afghans to take up arms against the American military. Mr. Karzai has been demanding since last December that the Afghan government should take over the American-run detention center in Parwan, where more than 3,000 suspected insurgents are housed. The United States has declined, citing legal reasons and saying that the Afghans are not prepared to run the maximum security site. But there is little doubt that with the latest episode of the Qur’an burning the American occupation forces are running out of bargaining chips to rebuff Mr. Karzai’s argument.

The behavior of the American soldiers in the Muslim world has been shockingly insensitive. It is a blood-soaked history of incessant morally repugnant, culturally despicable and utterly horrifying incidents one after another. Countless horrors have accompanied the conflicts both in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is so comical that the same people who had earlier shed crocodile tears for the demolished statues in Bahmian had no moral qualms about the looting and destruction of Iraq’s (actually humanity’s) ancient heritage! They had no problem dropping tons of bombs on museums, mountains and caves containing Afghanistan’s ancient heritage either.

As to the human lives in Iraq and Afghanistan the least said the better! As noted during the testimony of U.S. soldiers committing war crimes, those civilians were not even thought of as humans. So rape, killing, destruction and plunder were all easy to commit without any bite of moral conscience! So Abu Ghraib was not the only venue to exhibit American “exceptionalism” in savagery! It was just one such site amongst countless others - Fallujah, Tal Afar, Samarra, Al-Qa’im, Haditha, Ramadi, Husaybah and Mahmoudia inside Iraq, and dozens of other horrendous and notorious sites like the Bagram Air Base inside Afghanistan, let alone Guantanamo Bay.

More than a million unarmed civilians have been mercilessly pulverized simply for being either Iraqis or Afghans in asymmetric wars. Millions of others have been made homeless. With puppet governments in power, the lives of ordinary Iraqis and Afghans have not become any better.

Last Thursday, President Obama sent a letter of apology to President Karzai stating that “the error was inadvertent,” and promised to take “the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible.” General Allen has ordered coalition soldiers in Afghanistan to undergo training in “the proper handling of religious materials.”

Those are good gestures aimed at curbing the massive tide of anti-Americanism sweeping the region and stabilizing Afghanistan as the NATO forces are preparing to withdraw by the end of 2014. But those measures, even if implemented, may be insufficient to override the overwhelming negative perception held by most Afghans that the Americans are hypocritical. They see a repeat offender who disrespects everything that the Afghans venerate and honor. It is, therefore, not difficult to understand their anger and frustration at the latest episode. As reported in the New York Times, one protester said, “This is not just about dishonoring the Koran (Qur’an), it is about disrespecting our dead and killing our children,” referring to an episode in Helmand Province when American Marines urinated on the dead bodies of men they described as insurgents and to a recent erroneous airstrike on civilians in Kapisa Province that killed eight young Afghans. “They always admit their mistakes,” he said. “They burn our Koran (Qur’an) and then they apologize. You can’t just disrespect our holy book and kill our innocent children and make a small apology.” Another protester said, “Just by saying ‘I am sorry,’ nothing can be solved. We want an open trial for those infidels who have burned our Holy Koran (Qur’an).”

Will American warlords listen, respect other religions and their holy books, and modify their behaviors accordingly? President Obama's apology to President Karzai Thursday was seized on by the president's Republican rivals (minus Congressman Ron Paul) as a sign of American weakness. Presidential primary candidate Newt Gingrich said it was the Afghans who should be apologizing. To obsessed bigots like him, America can never do anything wrong, not even in places like Abu Ghraib that has soiled America’s image worldwide. He proudly calls it American exceptionalism!

Well, one cannot teach morality to an evil person who epitomizes immorality. However, the problem is: guys like Gingrich (including Santorum and Romney) enjoy huge popularity amongst many Republican voters, who also listen to equally obnoxious hatemongering provocateurs like Rush Limbaugh that poison the airwaves. This explains why they are ahead of the other Republican candidate - Dr. Ron Paul – the last best hope for American sanity these days. Being brainwashed, many men and women in the U.S. military, naturally see our world the way Newt and other junkies of the Armageddon paint for them, and thus, entertain unfathomable hatred towards Muslims and their faith. It is this hatred which often comes out starkly naked in the harm’s way in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Unless, America learns to reject the voices of the hateful provocateurs and works towards nurturing a worldview that is respectful of ‘other’ cultures and traditions, her soldiers will continue to commit despicable crimes in the occupied territories.

Interestingly, central to the U.S.-led international coalition’s strategy for countering the Taliban insurgency is the idea of building up Afghan security capacity by working closely with the Afghan army and police. That requires a measure of trust, which is undermined when the coalition forces commit crimes against humanity and are insensitive and disrespectful of local conservative customs, let alone of Islam and its Holy Book. Such acts can provoke U.S.-trained Afghans to turn their guns on their foreign partners. It is hateful provocations like this, the daily harassments, the nightly raids and, of course, the indefatigable determination to defeat the invaders, which, even before the Qur’an burning and the unrest it unleashed across Afghanistan, has had led the Afghan “partners” to kill the U.S. and allied troops in increasing numbers. Saturday’s shooting of American military advisers is one more reminder of this failed experiment with trust-building.

In its bloated sense of pride and arrogance, if American military refuses to learn from its own misadventures, it will continue to repeat them and as such, whether it likes it or not, will self-defeat its own strategy. Something to ponder about for the American warlords!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Living between the two worlds - part 3

Winter is very dry in Bangladesh, and as such, can be quite dusty in the towns and cities with all the construction works going on round the clock. Although for an expatriate like me who has spent more time in North America than in Bangladesh, December weather in Chittagong should feel more like that of an early autumn in the north-east corner of the USA. However, what I heard from various sectors of the population is that Bangladesh is getting colder during the winter, as it is getting hotter during the summer months. So, there must be some truth to the global climatic changes taking place!

Soon after my arrival in Chittagong, I picked up a bad cold, which persisted until late January – almost a month after my return to Philadelphia. It was, I guess, the combination of dust in the air and the cold, which made me suffer. Like many concerned families, my siblings and parents bought hundreds of blanket for distribution amongst the poor and the needy people. ORCA, an alumni organization to which I belong, did a wonderful job distributing blankets to remote parts of the country.

There was a time in Bangladesh when the general public expected the government to take care of their problems – natural or man-made. But not any more! There are now hundreds of NGOs and many philanthropists doing such noble jobs coming to the aid of suffering masses. As a matter of fact whatever good that has happened in Bangladesh in the post-liberation period owes big time to its private sector and the NGOs. While the government sector is becoming ever more corrupt, this in spite of favorable report from the Transparency International (TI) in the last few years, it is the market savvy and risk-taking entrepreneurs and the hard work of employees in the private sector that is truly responsible for Bangladesh’s financial boom. They tell me that if the government institutions were free of corruption and less bureaucratic without red-tapes, Bangladesh’s economy could easily grow by double digits every year.

The sad story is: corruption is rampant and pervasive in all government sectors. So, the TI rating does not tell the whole story. Corruption is increasing every year, but other countries in Africa (that were once less corrupt) are now superseding Bangladesh in this competition to grab the spotlight. For any permit or government approval, the citizens must pay huge bribes, which are shared at every level of the bureaucracy, and sometimes with elected officials. That is the tragedy of being a Bangladeshi or doing business in Bangladesh!

The greedy officials have sold their soul to the devil long time ago and have no scruples or moral qualms about what is right and what is wrong. For every permission, which they need to make, whether it is about providing connections for the utility lines, building permits or business licenses, they demand a percentage of the net worth of the task. So, e.g., if a land developer were to get an approval for a building design at the government agency that is responsible for issuing such permits, it may have to pay a bribe of 1-2% of the cost of construction. The worse thing is with the change in government, something that was previously approved may be overturned later, which can lead to demolition of constructed structures. And there are many such landmark examples to show the dirty, ugly and rotten side of government institutions!

When asked why government officials are so corrupt, a frequently heard answer is that their salaries are not enough to cope with market prices; so they must take bribe to support their families. Mindful of such complaints, the current government in Bangladesh has increased salary of all government employees significantly. But as anyone would tell you such good-hearted measures have not put a dent in curbing corruption. As a matter of fact, the rates have gone up for bribes, so have the consumer prices for almost everything. The taxes also go up. The worst sufferers are, naturally, the honest individuals in the private sector (esp. the retirees) with limited incomes who must now pay more taxes and larger amounts of bribes for any government service!

There are government appraisers to assess property taxes. Often times, they would assess incomes on properties that are at least 2 to 4 times the earned income on those properties. To them, all the rental receipts and deeds of an honest landlord simply don’t have any validity. It is their way or highway – either you settle with them by paying bribes or pay an enormous amount to the government that is simply unrealistic and unbearable! As such, most citizens that depend on rental income on built properties have no alternative but to compromise by (unwillingly) paying hefty bribes to these income tax officials. Although both bribe-giving and bribe-taking are haram or forbidden in Islam, the practice is so common there is hardly anyone in Bangladesh who has not been either a taker or giver of bribe!

I know of a landowner who some years ago was earning Taka 120,000 (~2,000 USD) per month on rental income. That was the only source of his income. However, for security measures alone to ensure that his real estate properties are not grabbed by criminals, often linked with powerful government officials and elected representatives, he was spending in excess of Taka 70,000 per month. So, his net taxable income was less than Tk. 40,000 per month (considering other expenses for upkeep of the estate), or Tk. 480,000 (~8,000 USD) per year. As an honest taxpayer, he was paying a tax of approximately Tk. 100,000 (of which, I am told by his accountant, nearly half the money went to the government coffer and the remainder pocketed by the tax collection officers). In recent years, with some newly developed apartments that he owns, his rental income has gone up to Tk. 350,000 (~5,000 USD) per month. His security expenses have increased to Tk. 140,000 per month. With other incidental expenses on the real estate, his net yearly income is now well below Tk. 2,400,000. He paid a tax of approx. Tk. 500,000 last year (of which, more than half was pocketed by corrupt tax officers).

Just a few years ago when the military-backed Care Taker Government was in power and incomes of some of the top lawyers were published with their taxes, I could not believe what I was reading! I personally knew some of these lawyers because two of my own maternal uncles (now dead) were famous barristers under whom some of these lawyers had served as juniors during the pre-liberation period. These lawyers charge six to eight figure fees per case, and their net income on any given day is more than Tk. 100,000. Instead, some of these top lawyers had shown that their yearly income was only few hundred thousand Taka (a small fraction of the income of the aforementioned landowner) and not even a million Taka! It was a joke!

It is well-known that only a small fraction of the population pay income taxes in Bangladesh. Tax collectors are, therefore, more active in cities and commercial districts than in rural Bangladesh. With the filthy rich finding their ways to dodge the process by evading paying their due taxes, the onus of the tax collector seems to harass the honest tax payers! A major portion of the collected revenues and taxes goes into paying government employees’ salaries and retirement benefits. It is no wonder that with a paltry collection of taxes and revenues, municipal and other services are wanting, almost nil in most parts.

There is an adage in the West which says that there cannot be any representation without taxation. Obviously, Bangladesh is no Saudi Arabia. Here, the government institutions are there to collect taxes and revenues. However, as we have seen above, the system is failing. The system is used to harass honest taxpayers who must pay more than their due share of the taxes, while the tax collectors abuse the system to enrich themselves at the expense of the government treasury. One wonders if the collected money at the government treasury ends up paying for the salaries of the government employees, is there truly a need for all these government agencies that provide no service to the people! If not, how about ensuring that such agencies are more efficient and free of corruption? The question there is: who will bell the cat?

Judiciary is the last bastion of a country. If it is corrupt, then there is little hope for moving forward and defeating crime and corruption. The perception is that most magistrates and judges in the lower courts are extremely corrupt. Worse yet, many suspect that even in the higher courts, the cancer has spread! They can be bought and sold for a price! During my visit to Bangladesh, I was simply amazed to learn from some developers how many apartment building and commercial properties that were recently acquired by some of these judges. Given the fact that even the Chief Justice at the apex court of the country does not make more than a thousand USD per month (they are, of course, provided with free furnished bungalows and other privileges) it would have taken these corrupt judges thousands of years to earn such kind of money allowing them to become owners of these assets. This is simply unnerving given the fact that crime and corruption always go hand in hand. It is the criminals who victimize others, and then buy their way out by bribing the judges so that they don’t have to serve their time behind the bars. Such a vicious process is infectious and highly demoralizing and leads an entire nation into the downward spiral of a failed state.

A personal experience of mine is worth sharing here. In early April of 2005, my family properties in Khulshi, Chittagong were grabbed by a land-grabbing criminal syndicate, with the support from a greedy and murderous politician (SQC) from the then ruling BNP government (who is now facing war crimes tribunal in Bangladesh). Aided by their thugs, and using the land-grabbing syndicate as a face to their crime, this politician and his western-educated criminal son evicted 16 tenant families from our properties, cut down hundreds of expensive trees and then demolished ten buildings. Few days before the tragedy happened, when we came to realize the conspiracy, we tried to stop the incursion through the Judges’ Court in Chittagong through an injunction order, but failed being deliberately delayed by the court officials from hearing our plea because they were in collusion with the crime syndicate. Through the aid of the minister, the land-grabbing syndicate was able to even post Ansar, the government para-military security force, into our properties. It was a hopeless case for my family and elderly parents to fight such an organized crime syndicate. However, miracles do happen when you least expect it!

Based on my letters to several ministers and the US Ambassador, an honest police officer by the name of Abdullahel Baki, who was then DC-North Chittagong, investigated the matter and recommended that our genuine ownership rights on the properties be restored by the government. A subsequent raid by the metro police into our properties in mid-June evicted the criminal syndicate and restored our possession. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Baki was transferred to another town – Mymensingh and a case was lodged against him by the land-grabbing syndicate to harass him. With the long arms of the criminals everything is possible in Bangladesh!

We had to fight our case in the lower District Court and got a judgment in our favor which found Jaker H. Chowdhury and eight of his accomplices, who have worked as front men for the land-grab for the minister and his son Fayyaz (FQC), guilty. Regrettably, being threatened and advised, our lawyers did not bring charges against the minister and his son. The crime syndicate members were to serve a term of six years and a half behind the bar, pay a penalty of less than 100 USD. I was simply shocked to learn the paltry financial penalty issued by the court given the fact that our losses to properties were enormous, at least 100,000 USD. Worse yet, seven of the criminals found guilty simply fled from the court floor rather than being handcuffed by the court police and brought to the jail to serve their time (as if these criminals had already bribed the police beforehand so let them get away). Jaker and another accomplice were caught and taken to the prison. However, within a few days, his syndicate appealed for his bail in the High Court, of which we were unaware, and came out of the prison after serving only a month. Within the next three years, Jaker was imprisoned two more times on miscellaneous charges, but always was able to come out with bails being approved by the High Court (since unaware of his strategy as to where and when his lawyers were applying for bail we could not contest him).

Jaker and his land-grabbing syndicate are well-known for their evil criminality targeting vulnerable elders, doctoring land-deeds and issuing forged stamps, etc. But with a powerful syndicate behind him, and greedy politicians and corrupt government officials at the Land Deeds department and the judiciary, they seem to have an upper hand in victimizing their targets and dodging the judicial system. Like the Mafia Dons of America, they have become the new ‘untouchables’ in Bangladesh.

There is a strong perception that the entire judicial system is becoming a farce where victims of a crime are not getting their due share of justice to redress their sufferings and grievances. The victims have to have enough resources to fight against these powerful land-grabbing syndicates, who always find some greedy politicians and corrupt government officials to collude with. It is a hopeless case for most victims. And we have been learning this sad saga for the past 7 years.

Just imagine where Bangladesh would be if there were no corruption, or it was less pervasive!

To be continued>>>

Monday, February 6, 2012

Armenian Genocide – fact or fiction?

Last month the French Senate approved a controversial bill with a 127-86 vote that makes it a criminal offence to deny that genocide was committed by Ottoman Turks against Armenians during World War I. The measure has been sent to President Sarkozy for final approval. France already labels the so-called killings as an act of genocide, but the new bill, which passed both houses of parliament would hit anyone found denying the ‘genocide’ with a jail term and a fine of 45,000 euros (£29,000; $58,000). France has half a million citizens of Armenian descent, and many political analysts see a direct link with the passage of the bill with this year’s presidential elections.

French politicians, from both the Senate and the lower house of parliament, who opposed the law, have referred it to France’s Constitutional court. An interested reader may recall that in 2010 a U.S. congressional panel similarly approved a resolution declaring, what it called the Ottoman-era killing of Armenians genocide. The U.S. foreign affairs committee endorsed the resolution with a 23-22 vote even though the Obama administration had urged Congress not to approve it. As I have noted then, the U.S. congressional panel vote was aimed at slapping Turkey for her Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s condemnation of Israel’s offensive in Gaza that killed some 1500 civilians.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the Turkish parliament in Ankara that the French bill “murdered freedom of thought”. The Turkish government argued that judging what happened to the Armenian community in eastern Turkey in 1915-16 should be left to historians, and that the French law will restrict freedom of speech. Ankara immediately froze ties with France after the vote recalling its ambassador. The Senate Bill is sure to harm France’s credibility as a mediator between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.

Shaykh Abdal Qadir as-Sufi noted in 2010, “Genocide, an invented word, has been made to identify the act of the extermination of a racial human group. Significantly as it is defined, it did not happen, since the victim people still exist. There are millions of living Jews and Armenians. Transferring this failed act of ‘genocide’ from historical discourse to legislation indicates the denial of history [what happened] and the enthronement of totalitarian ideology, the obligatory viewpoint of the ruling oligarchy.”

Armenians claim that up to 1.5 million people died in 1915-16 as the Ottoman Empire split. On the other hand, Turkey has always maintained that the relocation measures adopted regarding the Armenians in Eastern Anatolia was merely for security reasons, and that the Armenian toll in 1915-16 has been greatly inflated and those killed were victims of civil war and unrest, not genocide.

As can be seen, like any other genocide debate the Armenian case is also a very sensitive subject for the players involved. Depending on which side one listens to the opinions may vary drastically. Thus, unless one is unbiased and objective, the conclusions drawn may be wrong, further feeding to the controversy.

Before discussing this sensitive subject, it is proper to understand the term genocide. Article Two of the UN Convention on Genocide of December 1948 describes genocide as carrying out acts intended “to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”. There has to be “an intent of destroying” to differentiate it from other forms of homicide.

From this definition, it is not difficult to comprehend why the mass killings in Bosnia, Chechnya, Kosovo and Rwanda, and of course, the exterminating campaigns against the Rohingya Muslims of Arakan (Rakhine) state of Burma (Myanmar) since the 1970s, against the Jews, gypsies and some other minorities during the World War II qualify as genocidal campaigns. And so do the genocidal policies in 1769-1773 when the English colonists killed some 15 million people -- one-third of population of Bengal (that included Bihar and Orissa). But what about the Armenians in Turkey in the early 20th century? Were they victims of genocide, too?

The Armenian claim seems untenable given the fact that studies of the Ottoman census by unbiased historians and other contemporary estimates show that far fewer than 1.5 million Armenians lived in the relevant areas before the war. So, how could the number of those killed be more than the total that lived? In this context it is also worth pointing out that the census bureau was headed by an Ottoman Armenian --Migirdic Shabanyan from 1897-1903. He surely can’t be accused of lying on behalf of the Ottoman state.

Yusuf Halacoglu, president the Turkish Historical Society (TTK), estimates that with the deportations (excluding inter-ethnic violence) a total of 56,000 Armenians perished during the period due to war conditions, and less than 10,000 were actually killed.

P. F. Peters, former Australian Ambassador to Turkey, noted, “The Turks had no deliberate policy of genocide at any stage, only the removal of Armenians from the front line with Russia, where they were collaborating with the Ottoman Empire’s enemies and were thus a threat to its security.” Mikael Varandian, an Armenian historian who wrote the book “History of the Armenian Movement” said, “Ottoman Armenians were completely free in the Ottoman Empire and the Turks were the Armenians’ only shelter against Russia guaranteeing their traditions, religion, culture and language in comparison to Russian oppression under the Czars.”

After the World War I, the Armenian allegations were investigated between 1919 and 1922 as part of a legal process against the Ottoman officials. The Peace Treaty of Sevres, which was imposed upon the defeated Ottoman Empire, required the Ottoman government to handover to the Allied Powers people accused of “massacres”. Subsequently, 144 high Ottoman officials were arrested and deported for trial by Britain to the island of Malta. The information which led to the arrests was mainly given by local Armenians and the Armenian Patriarchate. So while the deportees were interned on Malta the British occupation forces in Istanbul which had absolute power and authority in Ottoman capital, looked frantically everywhere to find evidence in order to incriminate the deportees.

An Armenian scholar, Haig Khazarian, appointed by the British, conducted thorough examination of documentary evidence in the Ottoman and British archives. However, Khazarian could not find any evidence demonstrating that the Ottoman government and the Ottoman officials deported to Malta either sanctioned or encouraged the killings of the Armenians. The British Foreign Office which investigated American archives also found no evidence that could corroborate the Armenian claims. After two years and four months of detention in Malta, all Ottoman deportees were set free without trial. As has often been the case with victors, whether in today’s Iraq or Afghanistan by the Occupying U.S. and NATO forces, no compensation, however, was ever paid to those unfortunate detainees.

Some Armenian Genocide proponents claim that when Hitler was asked about what the rest of the world would think about his ‘final solution’ (his attempt to exterminate the Jews) he rhetorically commented: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” As investigations from many researchers, including Prof. Heath W. Lowry, have abundantly shown this quote was from a forgery written by an unknown person on plain piece of paper and labeling it as “Hitler’s second speech” even though he only gave one speech that day. In his book, The U.S. Congress and Adolf Hitler on the Armenians, Political Communication and Persuasion, New York, III/2 (1985), pp. 111-140, Prof. Lowry says, “The assertion that Hitler made a reference to the Armenians in any context whatsoever is without foundation.”

Many references on the so-called Armenian Genocide cite the “Talat Pasha telegrams, (The Naim-Andonian documents)”, as evidences to support genocidal intent of the Turkish government. It claims that the Interior Minister Mehmed Talat Pasha ordered “Kill every Armenian man, woman, and child without concern.” However, subsequent research works by unprejudiced historians like Andrew Mango, Erik-Jan Z├╝rcher and Michael Gunter (just to name a few among many others) have proven that it was not authentic at all and at best an “Armenian fiction” or at worst “forgeries”.

Armenians claimed that those telegrams attributed to Talat Pasha were found in the office of an Ottoman official named Naim Bey by British forces commanded by General Allenby when they captured Aleppo in Syria in 1918. It was claimed that these were not destroyed only because the British occupation came with unexpected speed. Samples of these telegrams were published in Paris in 1920 by an Armenian author named Aram Andonian, and they also were presented at the Berlin Trial of the Armenian terrorist Tehlirian, who killed Talat Pasha. Nevertheless, the court neither considered these documents as “evidence” nor was involved in any decision claiming the authenticity of them. These documents were, however, entirely fabricated, and were in fact published by the Daily Telegraph of London in 1922, which also attributed them to a discovery made by Allenby’s army.

But when the British Foreign Office enquired about them at the War Office, and with Allenby himself, it was discovered that they had not been discovered by the British army but, rather, had been produced by an Armenian group in Paris. In addition, examination of the photographs provided in the Andonian volume shows clearly that neither in form, script or phraseology did they resemble normal Ottoman administrative documents, and that they were, therefore, rather crude forgeries, concocted by Andonian and his associates. Moreover the Ottoman archives contain a number of orders; whose authenticity can definitely be substantiated, issued on the same dates, in which Talat Pasha ordered investigations to be made to find and punish those responsible for the attacks which were being made on the deportation caravans. It is highly unlikely that he would have been ordering massacres on one hand and investigations and punishments for such crimes on the other.

Genocide is preceded by discrimination or hatred of the targeted group. If Armenians were discriminated in Ottoman Turkey, it is difficult to believe that Armenians like Migirdic Shabanyan could have held such high level positions. What we find, instead, is that several Armenians, like many other subjects, held high positions throughout the Ottoman Empire. Nineteenth-century archives show that 29 Armenians reached the status of Pasha, an Ottoman military rank equivalent to general; 22 held positions in executive government offices such as the minister of foreign affairs; 33 were elected to parliament; 18 served in embassies and consulates and 11 were professors in major universities.

As also noted by General Bronsart von Schellendorf, former Chief of the General Staff of the Turkish Field Troops and later Commander of the Royal Prussian Infantry Division, the Armenians enjoyed the same social and political rights as the rest of the population of the Ottoman state. As regards the years preceding the Turkish-Russian War of 1877-78, Sir Charles Eliot, author of the book ‘Turkey in Europe’, wrote, “The Turks and Armenians got on excellently together... The Russians restricted the Armenian Church, schools and language; the Turks on the contrary were perfectly tolerant and liberal as to all such matters. They did not care how the Armenians prayed, taught and talked... The Armenians were thorough Orientals and appreciated Turkish ideas and habits... (They) were quite content to live among the Turks.... The balance of wealth certainly remained with the Christians. The Turks treated them with good-humoured confidence...”

Almost all Turkish intellectuals, scientists and historians accept that many Armenians died during the conflict, but they do not consider these events to be genocide. A number of Western academics in the field of Ottoman history, including (late) Bernard Lewis (Princeton University), Heath Lowry (Princeton University), Justin McCarthy (University of Louisville), Gilles Veinstein (College de France), and Stanford Shaw (UCLA, Bilkent University) have expressed serious doubts as to the genocidal character of the events. They offer the opinion that the weight of evidence instead points to serious inter-communal warfare, perpetrated by both Muslim and Christian irregular forces, aggravated by disease and famine, as the causes of suffering and massacres in Anatolia and adjoining areas during the First World War.

The Armenian propaganda claims that theirs was genocide similar to those suffered by the Jews in Germany. Arguments disputing the similarities to the Jewish Holocaust are however plenty. Consider, e.g., the followings: (a) there is no record (neither from origination archives nor from destination archives in Syria) of an effort to develop a systematic process and efficient means of killing; (b) there are no lists or other methods for tracing the Armenian population to assemble and kill as many people as possible; (c) there was no resource allocation to exterminate Armenians (biological, chemical warfare allocations, etc.); in fact, there was a constant increase in food and support expenses and these efforts continued after the end of deportations; (d) there is no record of Armenians in forced deportations being treated as prisoners; (e) the claims regarding prisoners apply only to the leaders of the Armenian militia, but did not extend to ethnic profiling; the size of the security force needed to develop these claims was beyond the power of the Ottoman Empire during 1915; (f) there is no record of prisons designed or built to match the claims of a Holocaust; (g) there were no public speeches organized by the central government targeting Armenians.

The comparison with the Jewish Holocaust is also untenable on several grounds. As noted by Erol Bozok elsewhere: “(i) The Jews did not start to attack and kill innocent Germans in 1919, 20 years before the start of World War Two. In contrast, Armenians began to kill innocent Turks in 1894, 20 years before the outbreak of World War One; (ii) Jews in Germany did not rush off en masse in 1939 to join the Soviet, British or French armies. According to Armenian sources, 150,000 Armenians served in the Russian Army during World War One, fighting against the Ottoman Empire; (iii) Jews from all parts of Germany, and German-occupied territories, were sent to death camps. In the Ottoman Empire, Armenians in eastern Turkey (where the Russians had invaded) were sent to remote parts of the Empire. Armenians in the west were generally allowed to remain where they were. Did many Armenians die on their way to these remote destinations? Yes, and the Diaspora refers to this tragedy as ‘genocide without bullets.’ They fail to mention that Turkish refugees were dying in droves from the same causes of famine, disease and exposure. (iv) The Holocaust is well documented as a planned and systematic extermination of one race by another; countless photos and films have recorded the horror. In the Armenian case, photo collections record atrocities and massacres committed against them. The same holds true for the massacre of Turks committed by Armenians. Other than that, the Armenian case for genocide depends heavily on testimony and hearsay filtered through Western sources. ‘Evidence’ such as Ambassador Henry Morgenthau’s book and the infamous “Andonian documents” are highly suspect. Morgenthau never went to eastern Turkey and his personal secretary (who managed the flow of information to the ambassador) was Armenian. His book was ghost-written by a journalist and is a classic example of ‘hate literature,’ as one Ottoman scholar recently described it to me. The ‘Andonian Documents’ were recognized as forgeries by the British Government 85 years ago; Ottoman scholars agree with this appraisal. These documents were alleged to be copies of telegrams from the Istanbul government to provincial authorities, instructing them to exterminate Armenians. The idea of a government, on the verge of committing genocide, establishing a ‘paper trail’ with a string of telegrams is absurd.”

It is not difficult to understand why in his book “Armenia: Secrets of a ‘Christian’ Terrorist State” the late historian and author Samuel Weems wrote, “Many scholars and authors throughout the Western world are in agreement that rarely, in the pages of history, have facts been so deliberately altered to deceive and create an untrue picture. ... These Armenians are coming up with more Armenians murdered than there were Armenians in Anatolia.”

The history of the Armenian-Turkish conflict is a complicated and contentious one. Professor Justin McCarthy of Louisville University, an American historian who is an expert on late Ottoman era history, believes that orthodox Western histories of the declining Ottoman Empire are biased, since they are based on the testimonies of biased observers: Christian missionaries, and officials of (Christian) nations who were at war with the Ottomans during World War I.

A little bit of history may help us here to understand the issue better. According to Prof. McCarthy, “Ethnic conflict between Turks and Armenians actually began more than 100 years before World War I. Actions of the Russian Empire precipitated the conflict. In 1800, Armenians were scattered within and beyond a region that now encompasses Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Eastern Turkey. In all but small districts, Armenians were a minority which had been under Muslim, primarily Turkish, rule for 700 years. The Russian Empire had begun the imperial conquests of the Muslim lands south of the Caucasus Mountains. One of their main weapons was the transfer of populations - deportation. They ruthlessly expelled whole Muslim populations, replacing them with Christians whom they felt would be loyal to a Christian government. Armenians were a major instrument of this policy. Like others in the Middle East, the primary loyalty of Armenians was religious. Many Armenians resented being under Muslim rule, and they were drawn to a Christian State and to offers of free land (land which had been seized from Turks and other Muslims). A major population exchange began. In Erivan Province (today the Armenian Republic) a Turkish majority was replaced by Armenians. In other regions such as coastal Georgia, Circassia, and the Crimea, other Christian groups were brought in to replace expelled Muslims. There was massive Muslim mortality; in some cases up to one third of the Muslims died.”

From 1827 to 1878 Imperial Russian expelled 1.3 million Muslims. One result of this forced deportation, serving the purposes of the Russians, was the development of ethnic hatred and ethnic conflict between Armenians and Muslims. Christian Armenians were exploited by Imperial Russia to spy on and do sabotage acts inside the Ottoman Empire. The situation simply worsened with rebellions of Armenian revolutionaries in the 1890s in which cities in Eastern Anatolia were seized and many Muslims and Armenians were killed. Inter-communal warfare between Turks and Armenians in Azerbaijan during the Russian Revolution of 1905 added to the peoples’ distrust of each other.

The New York Times quoted a Turkish embassy gazette in 1896 that stated: “It wasn’t the Porte that caused the massacres in Armenia, but the Christian propaganda in Asia Minor where their cry, “Down with Islam,” initiated the war of the crescent against the cross.”

Even after 1905 the Russian authorities continued to exploit the Armenian terrorist groups to create ethnic conflict within the Ottoman Empire. General Mayewski who was the Russian Consul General in Bitlis and Van in December 1912 wrote, “The Dashnak revolutionary society is working to stir up a situation in which Muslims and Armenians will attack each other, and thus pave the way for Russian intervention.”

When Turkey entered World War I as an ally of Germany against Russia, inter-communal war erupted between Turks and the Armenians. According to Prof. McCarthy, “Armenian revolutionaries, many trained in Russia attempted to seize main Ottoman cities in Eastern Anatolia. They took the city of Van and held it until Russia invaders arrived, killing all but a few of the Muslims of the city and surrounding villages.”

The German General Bronsart von Schellendorf, an eyewitness during the WW I, said, “Since all the able Moslem men were in the army, it was easy for the Armenians to begin a horrible slaughter of the defenseless Moslem inhabitants in the area. They ... simply cleaned out the Moslem inhabitants in those areas. They performed gruesome deeds, of which I, as an eye witness honestly say that they were much worse than what Turks have been accused of as an Armenian atrocity.”

In his testimony in front of the Committee on International Relations, U.S. House of Representatives in May 1996, Dr. McCarthy stated, “I do not believe the Ottoman government ever intended genocide of Armenians. This conclusion is based on both evidence and logic: Of the masses of secret deportation orders seen to date not one orders murder. Instead, they order Ottoman officials to protect deported Armenians… Large Armenian populations, such as those of Istanbul and other major cities, remained throughout the war. These were areas where Ottoman power was greatest and genocide would have been easiest. To decide whether genocide was intended, it is instructive to compare this to the Nazi genocide of the Jews. The Jews of Berlin were killed, their synagogues defiled. The Armenians of Istanbul lived through the war, their churches open. Another telling argument against genocide is that hundreds of thousands of Armenians survived deportation to the Arab World. If genocide were intended, it must be believed that the Ottomans could not manage to kill them, even though these Armenians were completely under Ottoman control for three years. This is not believable. It was in fact in the regions where Ottoman control was weakest that columns of Armenian deportees suffered most. The stories of the time give many examples of columns of hundreds of Armenians guarded by perhaps two government guards. When the columns were attacked by tribesmen or bandits, Armenians were robbed and killed. It must be remembered that these tribes were those who had themselves suffered greatly at the hands of Armenians and Russians. Were the Ottomans guilty? They were guilty of not properly protecting their citizens. Given the situation of the time, with Turks and Kurds fighting for their lives against Russians and Armenians, this is understandable, although it is never excusable for a government not to protect its people… While Ottoman weakness should be censured. should we not also ask how well Armenians and Russians protected the Turks and Kurds who fell under their control? The answer is that in provinces such as Van, where inter-communal fighting was fiercest, Muslims who could not escape from Armenian bands were killed. Virtually the entire Muslim population of southeast and far eastern Anatolia either became refugees or died. Like the deportation of Armenians, this too was a deportation with great mortality. It should also be recorded when the evils of deportation are considered.”

Prof. McCarthy continued, “Assuming one-sided evil has led to an unfortunate approach to the history of the Armenians and the Turks. Instead of investigating the history of the time without prejudice, all the guilt has been attached to one side. Once the Turks were assumed to be guilty, the search was on to find proof. The process has been one of assertion and refutation. It was asserted that Talat Pasha, the Ottoman Interior Minister, had written telegrams ordering the murder of Armenians, but these proved to be forgeries. It was asserted that statistics supposedly ‘from the Armenian Patriarchate’ proved that Armenians were a majority in Eastern Anatolia, but these statistics were found to have been created, without reference to any actual records, by a writer in Paris. It was asserted that letters published during World War I by the British Propaganda Office showed Turkish guilt, but these have proven to have been sent by missionaries and Armenian revolutionaries, both of whom were less than neutral sources. It was asserted that courts martial by a post war Turkish government proved that Turks had engaged in genocide, although careful examination of the records shows that the charges were included among long lists of crimes brought by a government under control of British occupiers -- lists that include all sorts of actions that are demonstrably false and include anything that would please the conquerors.

“The problem with these assertions is that the accusations have been given wide distribution, while the refutations have been generally known only to historians. For example, so few have seen actual population statistics that it is commonly believed that Armenians were a majority in what is still called Armenia, even though Muslims actually outnumbered Armenians three to one. The British propaganda descriptions of Armenian deaths, all of them from anonymous sources, have often been reprinted, with no mention that the Armenian revolutionary parties were a source. Nor is it mentioned that historians have proven that the British propagandists routinely invented their “evidence.” Those who speak of supposed evidence from the period when the British occupied Istanbul neglect to mention that the British themselves, who had complete control over all Ottoman official records, were forced at the time to admit that they could find no evidence of an organized genocide against Armenians.”

It should be pointed out that Dr. McCarthy is not alone in pointing out the fallacy of the Armenian Genocide. There are many other historians who state that the conclusions reached toward genocide are highly biased. These include: (late) Bernard Lewis (Princeton), Enver Zia Karal (Ankara University), Salahi R. Sonyel (British historian and public activist), Ismail Binark (Director of Ottoman archives, Ankara), Sinasi Orel (director of a much publicized project on declassifying documents on Ottoman Armenians), Kamuran Gurun (former diplomat), and Mim Kemal Oke. These and others have told that the “Blue Book” (The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915-1916) by James Bryce and Arnold J. Toynbee lacks credibility. The latter book was all part of a propaganda campaign, based on false information supplied by British and French Intelligence units, to smear Turkey’s image, and to justify their own colonization of much of the defeated empire’s territories at the end of World War I.

Forgotten in all such bloated and libelous claims against Turkey is the Muslim casualty. According to the Ottoman Archives, 517,955 Muslim civilians were massacred in this era by Armenian irregular units and Armenian revolutionary groups, in addition to the French Armenian Legion and the British and Russian backed Armenian volunteer units. To quote Mehmet Avdjier, Head of the Center of Studies of Anatolian history, “At that time Armenian gangs in cooperation with Russian troops committed genocide against Muslim Turks. In these years Russian and Englishmen drew an Armenian map in Eastern Anatolia. Filled with dreams about this map, under support of the occupational forces the gangs killed 215,000 Turks in Van, 45,000 in Kars and its suburbs, 68,000 in Bitlis and suburbs, 30,000 in Erzirum and suburbs, 21,000 in Mush and suburbs, 14,000 in Agri. In other words, 517,955 Muslim Turks were killed and buried.” A comparison of numbers from reliable sources does show plainly that more Muslims were killed by the Armenians than the other way around.

In the Proceedings of Symposium on International Terrorism, Prof. McCarthy wrote, “We now know that, like the infamous Hitler Quote, the so-called extermination orders of Talat Pasha were forgeries. The only relevant Ottoman documents that have come to light indicate a generally solicitous attitude toward deported Armenians.”

The overwhelming verdict by unbiased historians is that what happened with Armenians in 1915 was not genocide. Not only was there any government policy towards intent to eliminate Armenians the total number of victims who died during relocation or resettlement was a small fraction of the number claimed.

The sad fact is propaganda matters and genocide nowadays, thanks to the Zionists, has become a big industry. As such, in certain countries anyone doubting or questioning genocide can be persecuted. Argentina, Switzerland and Uruguay have adopted laws that punish genocide denial. The European Union has ratified a law “banning incitement to or denial of genocide” (both the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide).

In their zealotry to falsely accuse others, sadly, the western countries -- all colonial enterprises at one time -- duck their own shameful history of genocide in their former colonies. Conveniently forgotten by the French government, e.g., is its own genocidal campaign in Algeria during the colonial days which between 1954 and 1962 killed more than a million freedom-loving Algerians. As noted earlier, the English East India Company killed 15 million Bengalis in one of the worst genocidal campaigns in history. And as to the calculated massacre and murder of tens of millions of other colored peoples in Asia, Africa and Latin America (including the Native Americans, the aborigines of Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania in the past centuries and the Chechens, Afghans and Iraqis in our time) the least said the better!

I, therefore, see a blatant case of hypocrisy that tries to smudge the solicitous record of the Turkish people while hiding West’s more horrific crimes under the rug.

The death of those Armenians remains a highly controversial subject and thus, should remain a matter of inquiry for researchers and not gagging or silencing. It is sad to see how failed politicians with nothing better to offer during an election year are now exploiting sensitive issues to draw votes from their electorates. In such exploits, it is the truth that is becoming the worst casualty. And this is simply unacceptable! Shame on Sarkozy and his ilk of bankrupt politicians!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Aye Kyaw - the Julius Streicher of Arakan and Burma - is dead

Aye Kyaw died on January 19, 2012 in New York.

The feeling I personally have hearing about Aye Kyaw's death is - the world has one less bigot and racist SOB today than it was merely a few days ago when he was alive. As we have repeatedly maintained our world is becoming a world of multi-culture or pluralism where different groups of people perform best when they are integrated and not forced to assimilate into, and worse yet alienated or exiled from the society. Aye Kyaw and his bunch of hate-mongering provocateurs like Aye Chan simply did not evolve into a thinking two-legged animal, but wanted to stay in their hateful pre-modern comfort zone of delusion and mendacity, poisoning the world with their unfathomable poisons of hatred and xenophobia.

And the irony of the whole thing is that Aye Kyaw and his ilk chose to live as minorities in their newly adopted countries demanding social and economic justice for them. So, why this level of hypocrisy, this level of promotion of hatred and discrimination, enticing people to commit war crimes against the Rohingya - the Bhumiputras - the indigenous inhabitants of the soil of Arakan? Obviously, we know their answer. It is for land-grab, pure and simple. The loss with Rohingya is a gain for the Rakhine and their cohorts in the Burman society! In so doing, they forget the writings of the history, the numerous signs for wise men to reflect and change their evil ways. They forgot that our world is spacious enough to share. They forgot that when a person dies it does not take more than more 6x3 sft of space on our earth to bury him or his ash. But as we have seen you can't teach an old dog new tricks. We simply failed to educate Aye Kyaw and his bunch of intellectual frauds who know nothing better than starting the fire of hatred. So their death is a gain for the world! I personally would have loved nothing better to see him hanged for enticing war crimes.

In his entire life, while Aye Kyaw was a celebrity among his hateful ethnic Rakhine community, the broader world outside his particular race will only know him as another evil brainchild of Julius Streicher who in this case, unlike the spiritual mentor, was able to save his skin before being hanged or shot for enticing war crime against the Rohingya - an endangered nationality in our world. I wish his death would sober other hateful bigots and racists to close the chapter of hatred and racism and amend their ways towards creating a more inclusive world!

But can I dream of such happening in our time? Probably, the Rakhine people can provide the answer!